Skimming Favored in Pacific Classic

Skimming Favored in Pacific Classic
Photo: AP/Benoit photo
Trainer Craig Dollase accompanied Pacific Classic starter Futural as he schooled in the Del Mar paddock Thursday.
From Del Mar Turf Club
Six horses will be seeking gold and glory in Sunday's 11th edition of the $1-million Pacific Classic, Del Mar's premier race each year. The field for the 1 1/4 mile race will be headed by defending champion Skimming, who has been installed as the morning-line favorite at odds of 8-5.

Set to do battle with the front-running Skimming are Futural, Captain Steve, Dixie Dot Com, Dig For It and Until Sundown. The 3-year-old Until Sundown gets a weight break and will carry 117 pounds. The rest will carry 124. Post time for the race -- the fifth on the card -- is 5:42 p.m. (ET).

A second straight win by Skimming would give owner Juddmonte Farms its fourth win in the 11 years, while it would give Hall of Fame trainer Robert Frankel his sixth Pacific Classic triumph.

Skimming, who has won Del Mar's San Diego Handicap two straight years, will be ridden by regular rider Garrett Gomez and will break from post position 3. Leaving from post 1 will be Until Sundown, who will carry Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, and in post position 2 will be Futural with Hall of Famer Chris McCarron in the irons.

On the other side of Skimming, in the fourth gate, will be Dig For It, with Alex Solis up. Dixie Dot Com will leave from post 5, with regular rider David Flores, and starting from the outside will be Dubai World Cup victor and earner of $6.7 million Captain Steve and rider Victor Espinoza.

Futural has been posted as second on the morning line at 9-5, Captain Steve is 3-1, Until Sundown 6-1, Dixie Dot Com 8-1 and Dig For It 30-1.

Following the draw, which was held in the track's picturesque Plaza de Mexico by Thoroughbred owner and breeder Martin Wygod and assistant clerk of scales Charles McCaul, track announcer Trevor Denman conducted a question-and-answer session with representatives of the contenders with the exception of Frankel, who was contacted later by telephone in New York.

Owner Mike Pegram, in the absence of trainer Bob Baffert, said of Captain Steve, who is winless in three races since his Dubai victory: "He ran a winning race in Kentucky giving a lot of weight [10 pounds to winner Guided Tour] and then he ran a couple of duds out here [fourth in the Hollywood Gold Cup and third in the San Diego]. Maybe the third time is the charm."

A cheery William Morey, Jr. said, "Our post is fine. I just wish we were back at Lone Star [Park in Texas]. He loved it down there. Actually, he's doing good." Acknowledging that the distance of the race is a concern, Morey, nevertheless, said, "I'm a big 'Dixie' fan. I think he can do anything on any given day."

With a runner of Skimming's style and caliber in the race, pace and tactics obviously become major factors, and Dollase, whose Futural finished first in the Hollywood Gold before being disqualified to third for interfering with Skimming, spoke directly to those things. "I need some pace in the race, someone who'll go with Skimming," the young trainer said. "It's going to be a very tactical race. I'm hoping for a good, clean break, and I think Chris [McCarron] will put him in a good spot in the early going. I think the distance of a mile and a quarter suits him."

Gus Headley, subbing for his dad, Bruce, said he believes that Dig For It has improved since his fifth-place finish in the San Diego Handicap July 29. "He'll be plugging away," the young assistant said. "We'll be hoping to wind up second or third."

In a telephone interview following the draw, Frankel had this to say: "I'm glad he drew inside Dixie Dot Com. I didn't want the No. 1 hole. I know Dixie Dot Com has some speed, but I don't expect him to go suicide on me." Frankel said given the early post time for the Pacific Classic he probably would not make the race in his return trip from New York on Sunday.

Laura de Seroux was not at the draw and was unavailable for comment.

De Seroux's 3-year-old will be trying to duplicate of feats of 3-year-olds Best Pal, who won the inaugural Pacific Classic in 1991, and General Challenge, who won in 1999. Two other 3-year-olds - Dramatic Gold and Tiznow - finished third in 1994 and second in 2000, respectively.

Making the trophy presentation to the Pacific Classic winner will be riding legend Bill Shoemaker, who will be celebrating his 70th birthday on Sunday, and will be honored earlier in the day with the naming of the second race in his honor. Following that race, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will present a birthday cake in the winner's circle, where Shoemaker will be joined by his riding contemporaries and members of the present Del Mar riding colony.

The oldtimers joining "Shoe" will include Johnny Longden, Don Pierce, Fernando Toro, Bill Harmatz, Ray York, Pete and Henry Moreno, George Taniguchi and Milo Valenzuela.

There will be a "Big Kahuna" guaranteed $1-million Pick Six on the 10-race card. Post time for the day's first race will be 12:30 p.m. The gates open at 9 a.m.

The field, with morning line odds, consists of:

1--Until Sundown, G. Stevens, 6/1
2--Futural, C. McCarron, 9/5
3--Skimming, G. Gomez, 8/5
4--Dig For It, A. Solis, 30/1
5--Dixie Dot Com, D. Flores, 8/1
6--Captain Steve, V. Espinoza,3/1

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